Do Not Emoji Me

13903401_1072651389479219_8916923004144505474_nA single symbol can convey a complex message, I know. But decoding miscellaneous feelings and thoughts expressed in a streamlined manner using emojis is not my forte. Stupid me, I’m kindly asking my readers to stop sending me messages with faces making faces.

I don’t want to come across here as a conservative, humourless and miserable curmudgeon. But I must confess I wholeheartedly dislike adults over 30 who shorten sentences to the extreme of using 2 letters or insert 10 winking smileys to express and idea. No objection to brevity or humour, it’s just that to me this rather annoying trend among middle-age adults is indicative of linguistic incompetence and lack of thoughts; a turn off. Furthermore, I’ve got the impression that the over-adoption of childish net-neologisms reflects the refusal of certain adults to act like grown-ups, and a mindless desire to project themselves as ever young, and to never out-grow the teenage preoccupation of being “le dernier cri” Qué flojera!!!! Ever-green wannabes make me yawn.

I’m not cool. I like to listen. I like to read. I find long, and logical discourses super sexy. So please do not emoji me, talk to me.

Janmashtami जन्माष्टमी

जन्माष्टमी के इस अवसर पर, हम ये कामना करते हैं कि श्री कृष्ण की कृपा आप पर, और आपके                               पूरे परिवार पर हमेशा बनी रहे। Jai Shree Krishna.

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HOPE

People wondered why I was so collected, so self-controlled during my husband’s funeral services; no person said a word about it, but I know they all thought I should’ve shown some emotion, any. They expected a wounded, ugly looking widow who was sobbing. Well, folks, no! No time for tears, no apologies, and no regrets. Not then, not now, not ever again. God knows I did what I possibly could and beyond, I’m clean.

I profoundly mourned my husband’s death and the consequential termination of our marriage long before his physical tragic end. The burial was literally the final nail into a self-made coffin, the end of a painful journey that surreptitiously but decisively began ten years prior to his final departure. By the time of his posthumous homage I had shouldered more than my fair share of grief already. I was fully awake, on alert mode since my concern was to safeguard my daughters; bearing the brunt of friends offering grossly foolish condolences.

It was years ago while in India that I came to acknowledge the extent of the damage to myself and my family. Tirelessly driving along the colourful, dusty and infinite roads of Rajasthan, I began to get a full and clear perspective on what had become my life and the perverse impact it was having on my children. A shadow of my former self, I had turned into a ludicrous trophy-wife holding onto a relationship that no longer existed. I was no more than a high-maintenance employee trying to prevent mental illness from taking over, and the ground from collapsing and completely lost myself in the process. No one was to blame for the break-up except for the two of us; he couldn’t help it and I couldn’t take it any more. The unique and loving feeling that once united us drowned; and our lifestyle, privileged and surreal couldn’t disguise the growing void at the core.

Experiencing first hand the chronicle of a death foretold is no fun; this is a trip I wouldn’t wish on anyone. And yet, in retrospect I affirm that everything learnt through this winding path has been a blessing in disguise. It was written in the stars for me to lose almost everything I had and start all over from scratch. Thus I learned the art of wisely and timely surrender and simply let it be…. and reborn.

john_mayer_continuum_by_socfan6700

Months afterward and the future seemed quite uncertain, it was India again which brought me further to my senses. To my own astonishment I found out in India that even under precarious circumstances life still existed and was eagerly waiting for me. Unexpected grateful events nurtured my ever-hungry spirit, and filled my heart with hope. By then I naturally began articulating the first sentences in Hindi, as a child would do. Thought and language in dialectical symbiosis. Good Omen.

A few days ago while waiting at traffic lights I was weighing the idea of accepting a generous invitation to visit India by the end of the year and devote a few weeks to my artistic projects there; or stay in my country earning money and face another hideous Christmas alone, full of obligations and surrounded by false joy. Cars were starting to drive when I noticed it: two cars in front of me, same colour, same size, side by side; one of them a few feet ahead of the other showing the exact same letters and the exact progressive numbers on their license plates. C‘mon, there are 5.3 Million vehicles in circulation in my city!! The Universe works in mysterious ways.

“Move forward. There is a continuum, a next chapter in India”

 

HOMELESS

The United Nations Commission on Human Rights reports that Mexico-City has around 30,000 people living in the streets; a disturbing 50% are children. Poverty, family breakdown and physical abuse are the main reasons so many children in my country do not have a roof over their heads. Many children prefer to run away from their homes for fear that arguments between adults will become violent.

But how do Indian people end up on the streets? Men, women and children can be found sleeping along sidewalks, under flyovers, near transport stations and next to railway tracks all over India. But depending on the region, population and challenges differ. In minor cities, homeless are single, male transient migrants in search for economic opportunities who keep close ties with their rural home base and eventually either find a place to live there or return to their native villages.

In India’s financial capital however, the situation seems to be different: in Mumbai a large portion of homeless are families who have lived on the streets their entire lives, even for multiple generations. According to a study conducted in 2011 by the Bombay Urban Industrial League for Development, 96% of Mumbai’s homeless families have lived on the streets for more than 5 years, while 58% have been homeless for more than 20 years. There are families who have lived on the streets for 40-50 years at a stretch. They no longer have connections with their villages and consider Mumbai their home.

Without Walls an exhibition put together by Carlin Carr, an urban researcher of Megapolis, provided a peek into the overlooked lives of Mumbai’s homeless, specifically women. The purpose was raise more awareness about the multiple issues this vulnerable population is confronted to.

This project was co-curated by Studio X Mumbai with contributions from NGO Pehchan an organisation that fights for the rights of the homeless population and BIND, a photography collective. They used multimedia, photography and mapping to interrogate three key aspects of homelessness: lived experiences of Mumbai’s women; livelihoods and the dignity of labour; and the physical space and its relationship to the infrastructure of the city.

The latter has been always an issue. A 2010 Supreme Court judgement makes it mandatory for civic authorities to build shelters for the urban homeless, but Mumbai has virtually no shelters except for a handful intended for street children. The organisers hope to spark interest, empathy and monetary support and for a pressing unmet need: family shelters.

Homelessness is a neglected issue. People in the city face abysmal conditions with a scarcity of shelters, and affordable housing options,” says Carr. “A vicious cycle of rising prices, illiteracy and low-level employment exacerbates Mumbai’s unique situation of inter-generational homelessness. We are raising funds by selling postcards and doll key chains by them at the exhibitions to build them the city’s first family shelter.

I hope the exhibition had at least helped the audience gain insight into the lives of the homeless families and understand their world, their work and the overwhelming challenges they face in gaining more equitable access to land, shelter and services.

Support Mumbai’s Homeless Families https://www.ketto.org/mumbaihomeless

Without Walls: An exhibition on Mumbai’s homeless http://www.mid-day.com/articles/without-walls-an-exhibition-on-mumbais-homeless/17159193

 

Dating in India

bce00764e4de2ff5810fef5d0a22c019Most Indian men are handsome in a very Yin/Yang way; they are decidedly virile, yet gentle, sweet, and caring at the same time. Intelligent, skilled, and amazingly witty they make perfect companions until they want what they cannot afford. I’ve gone through a number of, at times ridicule, situations trying to keep married guys at bay or explaining seemingly underage fellows why they really don’t want to date a woman who could be their mom.

The attention a western woman gets in India can be enjoyable at the beginning, especially because, in my case, it allowed me to participate in a conversation without reticent-me having to initiate it. Forever a nerd, my curiosity knows no limits so the first contact with singles in India was delectable, rich, and sincere. But far too many of those guys were just looking for a free ride into the Wild West; as soon as they realise white women are not that wild and that the evening won’t have a happy ending, they lose grip and turn off, apparently. They only enter in a sort of twilight time-off zone and eventually return with the argument you’ve accumulated good points by avoiding their advances. “Good, whatever you say, but what part of no, did you not understand?” It’s like if to them, our western no was that peculiar Indian head wobble -source of much confusion and wonderment among us foreigners- but in reverse.

Please don’t get me wrong, I’m by all means no spring chicken or a Hollywood kind of beauty or especially gifted, therefore I assume this conduct must be somehow indigenous. The stubbornness of their crush intrigues me, an incredibly long-lasting infatuation considering that Indian men usually don’t get attached to random women -let alone foreigners- since as many as 90% of all marriages in India are arranged. In fact, dating is a very unusual and controversial practice in India due to it.

And yet, as in the famed James Bond film saga, there was a spy who truly loved me. And as it happens in any good movie, this fierce emotional experience proved to be life changing. It was through the genuineness of his feelings and the intensity of his desire that I found the secret key to decode an ancient language; it allowed me to watch the gold of India from the inside.

Men in India usually hold back physical forms of affection in public as well as verbal confirmations of love. That doesn’t mean they are insensitive, it’s just that they are used to withhold these expressions out of respect. Point acknowledged, but difficult to bear. This, along with the pressure of his family and the media due to his public persona made life a living hell. Yes, the Indian traditional culture with the perceived higher sense of family values hits a western woman like a pile of bricks making cross-cultural affaires de coeur Utopia.

But he who loves never loses. If something, we both learned that compatibility is an achievement of love, not its precondition. And no, contrary to what Indian aunties believe, love does not only come after marriage, it happens in a second, any time and despite all odds.

Encountering Vishnu

You may call me crazy, but as much as I like the city, the only reason for me to move and live in NYC is the Metropolitan Museum of Art; I swear I would spend there every single weekend of my life.

George Lois contended that the DNA of talent is stored within the great museums of the world. I couldn’t agree more, museums are custodians of epiphanies and these epiphanies enter the central nervous system and deep recesses of the mind. The history of the art of mankind can inspire breakthrough conceptual thinking, in any field. One example suffices to prove my point: look at what the Met had in storage for us lunatics during a few months.

Ravi Varma Fine Arts Lithographic Press Shri Vishnu, 1894–1900 India, Lithograph; Sheet: 28 5/8 × 20 1/2 in. (72.7 × 52.1 cm) The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Gift of Mark Baron and Elise Boisanté, 2012 (2012.523.6) http://www.metmuseum.org/Collections/search-the-collections/78253
Shri Vishnu, 1894–1900

Vishnu is accompanied by his wives Sri Devi and Bhu Devi, who ride his celestial mount, the mythical man-bird Garuda, here depicted in full avian form. Vishnu is portrayed as “The Blue Lord,” richly garlanded in pearls and flowers, while his wives hold yak-hair fly whisks to fan their lord. All wear gold and jewel-encrusted crowns. Garuda has in his talons a cobra, the eagle’s mortal enemy, here symbolizing victory over nature spirits. This is a superb example of a chromolithographic Hindu devotional print designed by the famed artist Ravi Varma (1848–1906) and printed at his Fine Art Lithographic Press in Mumbai.

This print was part of the exhibition “Encountering Vishnu: The Lion Avatar in Indian Temple Drama”, in which Vishnu’s Narasimha (man-lion) appearance was celebrated with several dramatic sculptural depictions. They all explored the theme of Vishnu in his man-lion form, revealing himself at the court of an evil king in response to the king’s attempts to slay his own son for his unwavering devotion (bhakti) to Vishnu. This narrative was dramatically represented in painting as well, and when staged it was given heightened drama by the wearing of five powerfully expressive wooden masks recently acquired by the Met. This temple drama, known as Hiranyanatakam, is still performed in the Kaveri delta region of Tamil Nadu, in villages around Thanjavur in southern India.

http://www.metmuseum.org/exhibitions/listings/2015/encountering-vishnu

Are you kidding me?

Just when one thought Donald Trump supporters couldn’t get weirder, they just did. A group of Indian-Americans formed this year a political action committee to support the creep. They call themselves Indian-Americans for Trump 2016 and their campaign is founded on the belief that the Republican-frontrunner would make the best president not only for America as a whole, but especially for the American Hindu population. The group claims Trump’s bigotry targets only the less-educated and Muslim members of the American community. Therefore, as Hindus, this group believes they are advantaged by Trump’s policy proposals. Oops!! Good luck with that guys.

NarendraBut wait, as if this were not enough, the group has taken some creative license with its logo, which features a meditating Trump upon a red, white, and blue-coloured lotus as if he was Lord Vishnu. C’mon, really? Outrageous. But the group has defended their “artwork” by drawing comparisons to similar campaign posters used in Indian elections. Geez!!

Many questions come up to my mind right now. Why this group of Hindus chooses to support Trump on account of their Hinduism? Look guys, as far as I know, none of the “reasons” you have published align with or relate to Hindu ideology. This is pure ignorance, a great example of how the cult of American anti-intellectualism is finding its moment in the Republican presidential campaign of Donald Trump.

The U.S. is unique in many ways. One of them is a well-documented streak of anti-intellectualism, which has long suffused large parts of its society, including of course immigrant population. Remarkably for a country, which dominates the rankings of world-leading universities and produces far more than its share of Nobel laureates, large parts of the U.S. mainstream have long been proudly benighted.

One encounters it frequently when talking to some Americans about issues such as let’s say, the Middle East. They begin their rant with “Well, I’m no expert, but it seems to me that ….” They use the “I’m no expert” line proudly as a way of saying that they are not contaminated by any actual knowledge and can therefore cut through the crap and do what’s “right.” There is a view that deep knowledge of a situation just makes you incapable of “solving” it, whereas a “common sense” approach, based on good old American values, will get it done every time.

Trump’s supporters are the kind of guys who believe such things as the notion that dinosaurs and humans inhabited the planet at the same time, despite all evidence to the contrary. Indeed, such people think of this as “so-called evidence,” and proof of a conspiracy by intellectuals to rob American society of its spiritual values.

And these Indian-Americans seem to be a bit lost. How gullible can you guys be? Do you guys honestly think that Trump can tell the difference between a Muslim, Hindu, Parsi, legal or illegal? You’re just more brown people for him and his horde of white supremacists. Period.

God of peace, have mercy on us all.

Bijoy Jain

Two years ago I was invited to Mextrópoli, the first international congress for architecture organized by Arquine. I was well prepared to reconnect with several colleagues and acquaintances, but certainly not with Bijoy Jain. I was introduced to part of his work in 2013 during a short trip to India, but I had never heard him talk about Astrology and that alone made the conference worth. This renowned architect shocked an overcritical audience speaking about Monsoons, the Sun, the Moon and how these and other celestial bodies had influence on the way he works. Equally enthralling was the part on how he conceived space in Indian terms. Right in the middle of the conference I caught myself thinking: What’s the chance of a contemporary architect taking seriously the astral movement? What’s the chance of Alibagh coming to Mexico? Statistically maybe .000000001%. Lucky me.

Studio Mumbai

Jain humbly presented the working methods at Studio Mumbai, a collective of architects and Indian craftsman residents, led by him in south Mumbai. Studio Mumbai’s work is based on the act and process of constructing, on the idea of working collectively within the spirit of a workshop. It works with a human infrastructure of skilled artisans, technicians and draftsmen who design and build the work directly. This group shares an environment created from an iterative process, where ideas are explored through the production of large-scale mock-ups, models, material studies, sketches and drawings. Projects are developed through careful consideration of place and practice that draws from traditional skills, local building techniques, materials and an ingenuity arising from limited resources. Here ideas take form through a shared dialogue capable of integrating the thinking and making of architecture; an architecture that, without being self-referential, transforms thoughts into construction.

One can freely say that Bijoy Jain is a revolutionary in his own right. Many architects pay lip service to a building’s environment and local materials. Jain makes these his mantra so that the finished building doesn’t impose itself on the environment and the surroundings, but becomes part of it. It’s a singular achievement because this central idea runs constantly and rigorously through all of his work.